Just a little Windex

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I finally got to a project I have been wanting to do… washing my windshield.  Seems like an easy quick project, more of a quick task than a project.  Nothing to write home about.  However, I have the hardest time remembering – at the right time.  I remember all the time that I need to Windex my windshield… when I am driving.  I am driving when I notice that nice smudge from when I saved the world from the spider. (Sometimes I am a superhero to my kids.)   And the layer of dust that is quite distracting when you happen to be driving up the mountain into the sun … which I do everyday.  But, as soon as I pull up the driveway, I forget.  I forget as child after child tumble out of the car, eager to run out to the yard to the swingset or the soccer net, and I call out to them to put their backpacks in the house before we have another frantic morning of searching for the lost backpack … or shoe… or coat, to only find out that in the excitement of the after school freedom, they had left it outside… and it happened to rain that night.

But finally one morning, I drove home with just the two littles after school drop-off, and I remembered.  So, when the baby went down for his morning nap, the 3 yr old and I set to work.  Out came the Windex and the rag.  It felt so good.  And it was so clean.  And I could see clearer.  And then of course, the other windows got cleaned.  And we disassembled the car seats and washed the covers, took out the trash and swept best I could.  So, I guess it did turn into a project. Especially reassembling the car seats… that is a workout.

Just cleaning the windshield though got me thinking.  I finally got to it.  Finally got to taking that time, to do something which seems insignificant, but which really is helpful.  I sit in that front seat every day and stare out that window.  I drive my kids everywhere – to school, to church, to soccer, to family, to friends, etc… I spend a minimum of an hour and 40 minutes looking out that window.  Every day.  That’s just going to school and back.  But making that glass clean – everything looked a little brighter.  The sun danced through a little sweeter.  The beautiful scenes that I have the privilege to see where just that more beautiful that day.  Every day, at least twice a day, I drive down a mountain road.  There is one part of the road where the trees open up  and I get about 10 seconds to take a breath and drink in all the beauty as God reveals the most beautiful picture of trees and mountains in the distance.  I wish there was a little park bench right in that spot where I could just sit for a while and soak it all in.  And every time I go around that bend, it is different.  The way the sun hits it is always different.  The way the clouds are, or the color of the sky, or the fog in between the mountain ranges – it is a new picture every drive.  And for me, it never gets old.  It doesn’t matter if the kids are all getting along in the back, or not  (and not happens quite a bit at that stretch in the road) I can just be.  Just for a moment.  Take it all in and thank God.  He made it… for me.  Every time I turn that bend in the road, He makes me a new painting.  What an artist.

And so we go back home and I pull up the drive – and through that clean windshield, I take a moment to see the beauty of our yard… the fall leaves on the trees and the open space for the kids to play.  I am so grateful.  There is such beauty all around.   Sometimes, especially during this season of life,  the taxi season, I am going to see a good portion of that beauty through my windshield.  If I take that moment.  I just pray I have the grace to look for that beauty… to look for that grace in the ordinary moment.  Sometimes you just need a little Windex.  🙂

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Happy Feast of St. Therese!

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By my kitchen window since as long as I can remember, in every house we have lived in, I have had this picture of St. Therese.  My memory fails me as to its origin, but I do believe I picked it up in Lisieux during my World Youth Day pilgrimage in high school.  It is a postcard, in a simple black frame that I have replaced throughout the years.  I love to have her close, and as I am in the kitchen a lot in this vocation of motherhood, it has always made sense to have her there.  She reminds me of her “little way” – doing little things with great love; loving God greatly by doing the everyday little things, like washing dishes.  🙂   Maybe I should put another picture of her by the diapers and in the car…. because I do a lot of diaper changing and driving these days. 🙂

If you’ve never read her autobiography, Story of a Soul, I can’t recommend it enough.  And if you have, please consider reading it again.  I can’t tell you how many times something new sticks out to me.  But one Oct. 1st, many years ago, we were at Mass.  And the good priest gave his homily on the Little Flower, as St. Therese is fondly called.  He said something that struck me.  He said that one didn’t truly know Therese well until one read her book “Last Conversations.” And so, I did.  In there was a treasury of her last words amidst the great suffering she endured before her death.  It is a beautiful book and I am so grateful to that priest for having said that in his homily.

And so, today, I will leave you with an excerpt from Last Conversations that I happened upon today and touched my heart.  Know that the saints are ever present.  And how much they desire for us to be saints one day too.  They are our hidden friends, always praying for us, always encouraging us along this journey Home.  You are loved, my friend.

“I feel that I’m about to enter into my rest.  But I feel especially that my mission is about to begin, my mission of making God loved as I love Him, of giving my little way to souls.  If God answers my desires, my heaven will be spent on earth until the end of the world.  Yes, I want to spend my heaven doing good on earth…. I can’t make heaven a feast of rejoicing; I can’t rest as long as there are souls to be saved.  But when the angel will have said, “Time is no more!” then I will take my rest; I’ll be able to rejoice…because all will have entered into joy and repose.” My heart beats with joy at this thought.”

~ St. Therese (Last Conversations page 102)

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Faith to Move Mountains

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Our youngest is named after one of my favorite saints.  St. André Bessette.  I love St. Andre, for so many reasons.  His humility was so beautiful.  I love that he was simple – he loved God, and God loved him.  He lived his life to simply love God, in every aspect. In every moment that came, he answered the call to the moment.  Being a doorkeeper, every visitor that came he had an opportunity to meet Christ, and to be Christ to that person.  He was humble, and spent much time in prayer.  He requested his little room be in the little church that was first made to honor St. Joseph.  It was a tiny room up in what would have been a choir loft, with a simple bed, desk, and a washbowl.  You can go see it to this day.  He was known to go into the town to the people in his off hours and visit the sick, pray with them, bless them with holy oil, and keep moving.  So many people, and yet, they all got a little time with him, unrushed.  The amount of walking and people that would be cared for by him, one would wonder if he bi-located.  Many, many people were healed by God through this saint’s little visits.

But his faith!  It was so strong.  Faith to move mountains.  This little man (he was short in stature) practiced heroic virtue, and changed the world.  He felt called to build a church in honor of St. Joseph.  This call was so strong, in times of prayer and in his day to day.  Who was going to give him, a simple man who was not able to become a priest because he was not smart enough, who could only be given the responsibility of being a doorkeeper an enormous amount of money to build a church?  Why would they?  There were plenty of other churches.  So, what did St. Andre do?  He simply took a statue of St. Joseph to a piece of land and placed it there.  He dedicated the land to St. Joseph.  If St. Joseph wanted it, it would be built.  He would visit the statue often and pray for the church to be built.  People started noticing him going off to pray… and then they joined him.  Soon there were large crowds joining him in prayer to St. Joseph.  There was opposition, obstacles, walls, impossibilities.  But with prayer and determination, faith and magnanimity, fortitude and perseverance, the great church was built.  St. Joseph did provide.  He always does.  St. Joseph’s Oratory stands to this day, a beacon of light, reaching to the heavens, whose walls are lined from floor to ceiling with the canes and crutches of the people cured through the intercession of St. Joseph and St. Andre.  All  from one simple, humble man, who loved the Lord, and heard His call, and wholeheartedly devoted his life to making God’s wish realized.

What if?  What if St. Andre cowered? What if he got disheartened that he was not smart enough for seminary and just left?  What if he let pride enter in and decided not to be a simple doorkeeper?  What if he heard Jesus asking him to visit the poor and sick, and thought that God couldn’t possibly be asking him to visit with them and pray over them, blessing them with holy oil?  Why would God use him to heal the sick?  How could he, little he, have the gift of healing?  Why wouldn’t God give that to a more capable, more knowledgeable person, someone who was holier than him?  And then this church!?  How could the Lord call him to build this great oratory?  What if St. Andre second guessed the call, told the Lord he was not worthy for this great project, to go find someone more holy and capable?  What if he gave up one of the many times that everyone around him said no?  What if?

So many times where St. Andre could have given up, and yet, perhaps as he read through Scripture, he too was reminded as we are today… “Do not be afraid.”  So many times in the Gospels Christ says that to us: ” Do not be afraid.”  “Ask and you shall receive, ” Jesus says.  And then He goes on further: “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe you have already received it, and it will be yours.” Wow.  Jesus tells us to ask and have faith that He will truly answer.  He will move that mountain.

This world is so calculated, and I find that so many think that if it doesn’t make sense on paper, if the numbers don’t work, etc.. then the idea cannot come to reality.   Where is our great faith?  “O you of little faith” Jesus would always say to his disciples, questioning them why they didn’t trust Him more.

We must have great faith.  We must pray for the virtue of magnanimity.  I often think on Jesus’ last conversations with the apostles before He ascended.  It seems like an impossible task he asked of them, does it not?  Jesus told the apostles to go make disciples of ALL nations.  Not just their community.  Not just their town.  Not even just their country.  ALL nations.  If He desires it, if God Himself wills something, will He not also provide the grace and means to accomplish it?  St. Therese would say that God does not place a desire on our heart that He does not intend to fulfill.

And so He sends the Holy Spirit to stir up the courage, the fortitude, the perseverance, the patience, the humility, and ultimately the love that spurs them on to take on this great task that Christ has given them.  And they go forward, secure in His love, strengthened by the Eucharist and His Word,  to build His Church, to truly go and make disciples of all nations, to bring souls to the Heart of Christ.

And what about us?  Do we ever feel a tug at the heart to do something?  We take it to prayer and it seems as though God says, “Go.” Do we simply trust Him, and go, or do we hesitate?  Do we second guess?

May we be attentive to the tugs on our hearts from the Lord.  Let us take them to quiet prayer.  And ask the Holy Spirit to guide us, stirring up those gifts He has given us.  And then, let us go out to do His work, to be His instruments.  All for His glory.

Lord, increase our faith.

“My dear child,” Jesus replies, “Do not be afraid.”

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Summer Projects

IMG_20190810_202536114~2As the cooler weather comes in through our windows, the grocery stores have started to display their pumpkins, the children settle into the daily familiar hum of school again, and the leaves start to slowly display their vibrant colors, it appears fall has arrived.  And technically, summer did just end on the calendar. But, I’ve been wanting to hold on and reflect on it a little more before it is gone; let the beauty of summer slowing linger and the lessons learned and experiences shared just sit for a while with me.

As I look back on the summer, I think of all the fun we had even though we really didn’t leave our house even that much.  And all the wonderful friends who visited us and those special moments with them.  There were lots of playing with water in the yard, football games, bonfires, s’mores, crafts, books, rosaries, and good talks.

I do think this was a very graced summer.  It was the first summer in 8 years that my husband wasn’t in school.  PhD is complete; praise God.  And… we weren’t moving.  Also, praise God for that. 🙂  He still had to work, but it was amazing how much time we had together not having school on top of that.  The gift of time.. so much to be grateful for.

This summer, with its free-er time, provided us opportunities for some projects.   We planted a garden with Grandpa, built a soccer net with Dad, and also 2 swing sets.  These projects gave the kids special time together, and taught them some important lessons.  Looking back,  perseverance seems to stick out to me the most.

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The garden has been great, but it was some work – which we gave to the kids.  It was a process of weeding and tilling the earth to get everything ready for the plants, and then actually taking care of those plants – watering, weeding, picking,..  They did need to be reminded of those jobs (yes, sometimes a lot), but their hard work has paid off as they are now seeing the fruit of their labor.  That first batch of string beans were amazing.  Plus, they had bonding time with their grandpa – I am glad they will have that memory with him teaching them how to plant a garden.

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The soccer goal was quite a feat.  It is actually a monster of a soccer goal.  The big boys decided to pitch in a little $ together and we covered the rest, and then they also had to pitch in some brain power, patience, and sweat. They drew up some plans with measurements and sat down with their dad to create it on paper.  Then they took to the store in search of pvc pipes and joints.  However, the store didn’t have what they needed, so right there in Home Depot, they sat down on the floor and reconstructed the whole design.  They came home with so much pvc… It was quite the sight on our front lawn.  They put it together, and had to keep re-thinking, talking it through, changing the original plan, just to make it work. It was not as easy as the boys thought it was going to be, but the end result was amazing.  Now they have a huge goal in the yard, quite possibly, forever – I really can’t see this thing breaking.  They saved a lot of $ by building it themselves and really have a great goal.

The swing sets, oh, the swing sets.  The kids saw a great little playground at Costco and wanted to pool all their birthday $ to get it (which of course wouldn’t amount to a 1/3 of the cost of it, but the thought was very admirable.) I knew they would outgrow it, and so I suggested building good, solid swing sets instead.  So, Dan did the research.  It was quite the undertaking.  The braces and swings were purchased and the wooden beams were cut.  It was a massive project.  But all the kids got out there with their dad and helped in some way or another.  It was not easy and at times some wanted to give up.  But, they persevered.  Standing up 12 ft. swing sets after they are assembled on the ground was quite the challenge.  But, we worked together and we did it!  They look amazing and are built to last.  Our kids play hard, so we needed to build them strong.  But now I look out the kitchen window while I am making dinner, and see how happy our kids are swinging in our yard, on a swing set that they built.  And they can be proud of a project that they helped create and put in not just their birthday $, but also their hard work and dedication to finishing the project.

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And for my little “perseverance” project… I was able to teach the 4 oldest a little cooking.  They’ve been asking forever, and I have been teaching them things through the years, but this was the summer I finally got to do something a little more organized.  They each got to pick a meal, plan it out, and then cook the meal together from start to finish.  It was nice to be able to have time with each of them individually, and they chose some fancy meals!  We had chicken-broccoli-ziti, spicy shrimp pasta, roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and green beans, and homemade meatballs with homemade sauce.  They did a great job, and now know how to make that meal well, so now I can put those meals on the menu and they can be in charge that night.  For me, it was persevering and actually finishing this project… dinner time can be crazy here and it just seems easier to do it myself.  But taking that extra time with them was so good and worth it.  I think we will keep this as an ongoing project… I wonder what meals they will think of next!

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There are so many other ways we can talk about perseverance in a big family, in everyday life, and in our faith journey… I hope to write more on that soon. But for now, I leave you with a beautiful quote from St. Augustine on perseverance.  God bless you!

“Help me, O Lord Jesus, by saying to me, ‘ Do not tire of the narrow way; I walked it before you, I am the way itself; I am the guide, and I carry those whom I lead and bring them to Myself at the last’.”  (St. Augustine)

Two Good Men

Being now a mom of not only littles, but also teenagers, I’ve been thinking on some things.  Listening to the struggles of peer pressure that surround them, and trying to gently guide them to stand up for their values and encourage virtue, so that one day they can stand on their own, secure in their faith and in the persons God has created them to be…  I am so grateful to have some good solid saints to look toward for guidance.

In the last few days, the Church celebrated two big saints from different centuries… St. Thomas More on June 22, and St. John the Baptist on June 24th.  A day apart… both beheaded… both died defending the dignity and definition of the sacrament of marriage.  I love them both.

I love them because they did not cower.

They did not step down from their beliefs.

They spoke the truth.

And were beheaded for it.

It is very interesting to me to that they were both sought out… each by their own king at the time… that those who killed them actually thought highly of them. They respected them.  They were intrigued by this faith, this deep faith that was rooted in each of them.  These kings went to these saints, knowing how close they were to God, and sought their blessing to do something that was wrong.  They knew what they were asking to do was sinful – but in a way, did they seek out these saints to get their blessings?  Or did they know that they would actually tell it like it is, tell them the truth, reprove them, and guide them to right judgement?

And these saints…. good, strong men, solid in their faith … but even this, were they tempted at all to succumb to the pressure, these men of power, men of influence, men who had the power to destroy not only their reputations, but their very lives? If they just compromised their values, just this once … then they would live, and life could, on the surface, continue on as it had always been.  It may have been possible that they would have been promoted to a greater place of honor by their respected kings.  The “you do me a favor, I’ll do you a favor” mentality.   St. Thomas and St. John were both thrown in jail – they were given time to think it over and reconsider their answers.  They could have wavered.  St. Thomas had a family to take care of; St. John had a crowd of followers who waited on his words.  To give all… was this fight for marriage worth dying for?  Worth losing time on earth to do more good?  Worth losing everything dear to them?

Yes it was.  Choosing Christ who is Truth and Goodness and Love is always worth fighting for.  He is worth dying for.  Whether it is our reputations, our jobs, or our very lives – He is worth it.

I leave you with the words of St. Thomas More.  Before his death, in prison, he wrote to his daughter, Meg, in essence a goodbye letter.  It is very touching.  He closes it with these wise words.  I pray they bring you some hope and encouragement along the way.

“Do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen … in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.” ~ St. Thomas More

Summer Slowing

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Summer is sneaking up upon us.   Maybe because we had winter until May here in MA (at least it seemed that way).  Or perhaps we have just been in the very busy season of spring and baseball and end of the year activities.  I’m never quite ready for summer, never have everything planned, but then I remember – it is summer.  It is time to slow down.

Time for late rising for some, or for others backyard breakfast on the deck in their pjs,

bubbles and water balloons, nights by the fire pit and s’more making,

tilling of the garden and cooking class nights,

new plays to be created in the woods and endless soccer games in the yard,

quiet reading time for big people while little people nap, and not so quiet impromptu dance parties in the kitchen,

fun science projects to try and sewing machines to try out,

new playgrounds to be discovered and beaches to be walked on,

time for little 1 on 1 trips to the chapel & a treat with mom, and music lessons with dad,

tie-dye shirt making and popsicle stick crafting,

new ice cream stands to be found and homemade ice pop recipes to concoct,

sunset watching and firefly catching…

a time to catch our breath,

and catch the beauty of the moment as things slow down a bit.

Let us take that moment to  s l o w  down.  Take that moment to drink in the sun as it sets over the mountain.  There is a place not far from us that has become quickly a favorite place for us.  A little ice cream stand… on the top of a mountain.  It has a little goat pen where the kids can go fed and pet the goats and watch them play, and a simple playground with some ride on cars for the little ones, a sandbox, and things.  Our favorite time to go is a little before sunset.  Everyone gets to pick a different flavor of real, homemade, full-fat ice cream (the best kind, in my opinion).  And we sit together at the picnic table and eat and laugh and it’s one of those moments when everything is right in the world.  And then they all go off and play.. the little ones to the goats and park, and the bigger kids are a little further out throwing the baseball to each other.  And Dan and sit together on a bench, holding hands, watching them all, as the sun sets.  Sometimes we just look at each other and ask if this is actually real life.  It is so peaceful.  We look with joy and wonder at the scene in front of us.  Time stands still for a moment, and we drink in its beauty.  We are grateful for this moment of quiet goodness, and know that God is here.  He slowed us down and plopped us on that bench so He could show us His masterpiece.  The sun is setting just over the next mountain, and the sky is lit up with so many colors;  He has painted this scene so beautifully.  And His other little masterpieces are scattered on the grass, taking a moment to look up at His majestic work, then running back to us to finish the last moments of the sunset together as a family.   Glimpses of heaven.

Not every moment is like that.  There are still tears, and upsets moments, sometimes a lot, as there are a lot of people living under this one roof, each with their own personality, gifts, challenges, and crosses. But, there is also beauty.  And joy.  And goodness.  And taking time, slowing down, letting the gift of the moment come, looking for goodness, allowing our hearts to be filled with joy  – this are the habits of summer that we can practice so that they can become life long habits that we can still maintain to some degree when summer ends and a new season begins.  As we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost, let us ask the Holy Spirit to open our hearts, to let ourselves slow down, and be renewed and refreshed in Him, who is our Joy, our Hope, our Consolation.  Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle within them the fire of Your Love. Amen.

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Here is a little reflection I came across this week on the Holy Spirit.  I found it quite profound.  Hope you enjoy.  🙂

“Like the sunshine, which permeates all the atmosphere, spreading over land and sea, and yet is enjoyed by each person as though it were for him alone, so the Spirit pours forth His grace in full measure sufficient for all, and yet is present as though exclusively to everyone who can receive Him… As clear transparent substances become very bright when sunlight falls on them and shine with a new radiance, so also souls in whom the Spirit dwells, and who are enlightened by the Spirit, become spiritual themselves and source of grace for others.” ~ St. Basil the Great

Feast of the Ascension

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:19

“And when He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight.” ~ Acts 1:9

Yesterday in our diocese, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension.  Other dioceses will celebrate it this Sunday.  It is a feast that brings mixed feelings in my heart.  Since we celebrate this feast yearly, and because it is one of the glorious mysteries, I get the chance to ponder this event quite often.  I am torn in two directions as I place myself in my thoughts on that mountain where the Lord met with His apostles for the last time in person.  I picture it to be a beautiful day, the sky full of color.  There is joy, because I know He is going to prepare a place for me, as He said, and joy because He is going to the Father, and that He promised to send the Holy Spirit.  Knowing that He goes to re-unite with Heaven and with the Trinity brings joy to my heart, for I love Him.  True love is willing the good of the other, and I know Him going is for the good.

But there is another element that tugs on my heart, a sadness.  There is still joy, and great hope, but there is sadness.  He is going… away.  We will no longer be walking together, listening to Him as He speaks truth to my heart, looking in His eyes and seeing unfailing Love, for me.  That encouragement He gives me with a passing glance, that piety that changes me when I watch Him pray to the Father, the wisdom that He gentles passes on in His words, that joy that fills my heart when He smiles.  He is leaving.  He is ascending to the Father.  My heart is still attached.  And it aches for His return.

And so He ascends.  How I wish to go with Him!  I don’t want to be apart from Him for even an instance.  But He is taken up on the clouds, and has disappeared from my sight.  My heart filled and emptied, all at once, emptied, and filled.

My sadness fades as I remember His promise.  He will come back for me. 

And He will send the Holy Spirit to provide guidance and love and fortitude to carry out the great mission He gave – “Go and make disciples of all nations”, go and preach the truly Good News, tell everyone of Him, and of His great Love, bring His Love to each person I encounter, let Him shine through me, so that they no longer see me, but Him, and feel the warmth of His pure Love.  And I also remember that He has given me Himself in the Holy Eucharist.  We will never truly be apart.  When I am at Mass and I receive the Holy Eucharist, I am truly receiving Him, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  We are together.  And the more I come to Him, the more He can empty me and fill me.  Empty me of my selfishness, my worries, my pride, my attachments, my sins.  And fill me… with Him, Love Himself – fill my heart to overflowing.  And then that love can be shared with those around me.

These mixed feelings that tug at my heart when I think of the Ascension are also there towards the end of Adoration.  After Benediction and the prayers are said, the priest goes to the monstrance and takes the Eucharist out.  And again, my heart aches as I watch him take my Savior out, holds Him close, and places Him back in the tabernacle.  Oh, how I wish He wouldn’t go.  How I long to be with Him.  And again, the sadness fades as I remember His promise.  He will come back for me.  I can be with Him again, at the next Mass, at the next quiet moment in Adoration.  He will seek Him and He will find me.  And I will rest my heart in His Heart.

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